The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) has been awarded a $250,000 Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). This funding will support a project titled “Radiation Risk in Medicine: Identifying and Enabling Patient-Provider Shared Decision-Making.”

Ehsan Samei, chief imaging physicist at Duke University Health System and chair of the AAPM Board of Directors, will lead the project. Supported by a team of experts and advisory board members, including Suz Schrandt, JD; Danielle Dahlstrom; Donald Frush, MD; Lawrence Dauer, PhD; Heather Moore, PhD.; Liz Salguero, Sue Sheridan, and Leslie Tucker, the project aims to address critical gaps in understanding and managing radiation risk in medical practices. Its focus is on improving patient-provider communication and fostering shared decision-making.

To date, there’s been minimal research on the best ways to communicate and support informed patient-provider decision-making regarding the use and risks of medical radiation in diagnosis and therapy. Little focus has been placed on patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) or comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) concerning optimal communication for enabling shared decision-making.

Ignoring patients’ perceptions of radiation risk neglects a key aspect of patient care. Patient understanding of radiation risk is vital in shared decision-making. This proposal seeks to address this gap by reframing the narrative on radiation risk, leading to improved patient care.

“It is common in medicine to think of patient as the ‘subject’ of our care. But in reality, it is the patient that grants us the opportunity to provide the care—their agency is central to the very core of medical care,” says Samei. “This award enables focused research on how we can effectively honor and incorporate patient’s primary agency and voice in radiation medicine, which is not only the proper thing to do, but further enables the certain potential of improving both the outcome and satisfaction of the medical intervention.”

The project involves connecting with a broad community of stakeholders, primarily patients, but also other care professionals. Through surveys and listening sessions, the goal is to identify key patient needs, concerns, and priorities related to radiation risk, identifying needs and wants for effective communication strategies, and explore ways by which the expertise of the professionals can most effectually empower the patients to practice their agency in shared decision-making. 

The findings will be widely disseminated and used to design future studies on PCOR/CER in radiation risk. AAPM is the principal organization devoted to the practice of physics in medicine, with significant part of its focus on science, clinical practice, and education of radiation medicine. 

“Given the primary focus of AAPM on clinical care, we are motivated to understand and lead how radiological techniques can improve patient care,” says C. David Gammel, the executive director of the AAPM and the co-project lead of the award. “We are excited to advance patient-centered care and disseminate our findings broadly within the community of medical physicists and other healthcare professionals.”